Quotes from today's football press conferenceAugust 30, 2004 · MT Media Relations
ANDY MCCOLLUM PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
How is the atmosphere different at Florida and how is the mindset different playing on the road this early?
It's always tough, especially at a Florida, which in all of our years here is one of the loudest stadiums of any of them. Some of our kids feel like LSU was right there with it but we felt Florida was the loudest. You go in with some young guys in some certain areas and that's different for them because they haven't been in that environment. There is nothing you can do practice-wise to simulate that noise. We will try to and try different ways, but it's tough. We've been in those environments before and we've got a lot of kids that have played in very though environments during the past four years. It's never easy on the road, and I don't care who you are playing and four of our first five are on the road. We have to be a tough football team to handle that. Now Florida is different, it's Florida and it's tough wherever you play them.
You have faced these type situations on the road before. Is your approach any different this time?
Yes and no. I guess what we are looking at, and I really believe this, but this isn't the biggest game of the year for us. This is our first one and it's against a Top 10 team in the country, but we have games that mean more to us as we get going. Do we plan on going there and being as good as we can be, yes, we do. Are we excited about going and playing the best in the country? Yes, we are. At the same time, I don't want this to be a game that our kids believe is make-or-break you because it's not. It's a great opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country and one that we have a great deal of respect for.
Your teams, for the most part, have played well on the road against SEC opponents. Is it a laid-back, nothing-to-lose attitude?
I'm not sure it's a laid-back attitude. Our kids have worked all summer, all off-season to have the opportunity to go play the season and this happens to be our first one. They are excited about getting started regardless of who the first one is against, and I think every team in the country is that way right now. I want our kids to have fun playing. We've heard all the negatives and the kids have heard it. They are ready to go play football. This group is a close-knit group and I like that part of it, and they are excited about playing. They will not be intimidated going in there, I know that. They have heard the talk about being "patsies" and "little sisters of the poor." We've heard all of that and it has nothing to do with anything. We've spent four weeks beating each other up so let's go play ball and see what happens.
As tough as it is on the road, is this a good test for your team to see how they react as far as the level of difficulty playing in "The Swamp?"
We won't play in a louder place this year than Florida, that's for sure. Like I said, it's hard to simulate what you are fixing to go into, especially offensively, getting your calls, communication. We've done different things at practice. We've had silent days where coaches can't talk and you have to get everything through signals, through directions we are using. We will try to create noise, but this is the toughest environment on our schedule this year, as far as noise, so we feel if we can go in there and execute that's a good sign. We just have to take care of the football, take care of ourselves, don't give up the big plays and make them earn what they are doing.
Talk about your young secondary going up against a player of Chris Leak's caliber out of the gate?
Our first two games you have two Heisman Trophy candidates. Going into it, that's tough. Leak is coming off a tough year and he's a year better. He was pretty dang good last year and now he's a year better. Anytime you are playing Florida you have great team speed and you have big people who can run. It's going to be a tough challenge for our front guys getting pressure and our secondary, which is young and not as experienced, but that may not be all bad either as we go into it. We'll have to see.
If the game materializes into a shootout, who does that benefit?
If we could win the shootout then I would say it benefits us. I know Florida has great players. When they lose a No. 1, they have an All-American at No. 2. Anytime they lose one, everyone in the country is recruiting that second one that goes in there, also. I think you go into a game like this with the attitude of being what we can be. We can't control what Florida is, but we can control what we are. Let's go play with great effort, have fun playing.
How does the familiarity between the coaching staffs factor into this game?
I think it factors a lot because we get to do a lot of work against each other right now. Sometimes it's hard to simulate things that other people do. This week, offensively and defensively, there are a lot of similarities, which allows us to practice against one another, 1s versus 1s, 2s versus 2s, and that helps a lot. We don't know what they are going to call and they don't know the same thing for us, but as far as going against one another and not going against the scout team, I think it helps. They are doing it with a Chris Leak and take the receivers they have, they are doing it with some highly-skilled players, but we feel like we have some skilled players that aren't bad either.
Would you rather have this game later in the season?
Whether it's first, last or middle, it's still Florida. It's still a state with great players. It's a team with great players and a great staff. Ron Zook has done a great job there and we have all the respect in the world for him and his staff. It's tough wherever you play them. If you are going to play them, may as well play them first.
WR Kerry Wright
"This is a big game, our first game, but you have to keep perspective and prepare the same. It doesn't matter to me or my teammates that it's Florida. It's the first game.
On who will play quarterback
"I am comfortable with anyone - Josh [Harris], Clint [Marks], Sam [Hunt]. But I think it's good that Josh has been put in the situation and he knows he is the starter. He can prepare and get set mentally for the game.
On the Florida secondary
"They have some talented players. When their one or two guys go out, the number three is as good as any one. They are very good on film. We just have to prepare the same as anyone else.
LB Alvin Fite
"I think our play up front is our strength. If we play well up front, we're going to win a lot of games this year. We have four linemen this year and guys like [Jeff] Littlejohn and [Thomas] Johnson can work off single blocks instead of getting double-teamed all the time.
"They might be looking over us a bit. Maybe we can slip up and get one, but if we play well, we won't have to slip up on them.
"They throw the ball a lot and it's similar to our offense. We feel like, with the athletes and wide receivers we have, we've been able to see their offense everyday. We have to hold our secondary together and get pressure on the quarterback.
On being the underdog
"We have been the underdog. You go in and play your heart out. Sometimes it's better being the underdog because you don't have any pressure on you. When you're the favorite and then something happens, you have to answer to all of the media and fans.
DL Jeff Littlejohn
"We have to take care of the ball, not give up the big play and make tackles. We've played at Tennessee and Georgia and Missouri and Clemson, so the crowd noise is not as big of a factor, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. The skill guys have to check sometimes, but not as much on the lines.
On getting off the field
"Hopefully our offense can help us with that some, but we have to work on stopping the run and keeping them under 100 yards. Then we have to get some pressure on the quarterback when they throw the ball. Their offensive line is very athletic. We just have to work to get pressure on [QB Chris] Leak.
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